Current Project

‘In Kind: The Enactive Poem and the Co-Creative Response’ | PhD Thesis | School of English, University of St Andrews.

Abstract: My research is an exploration of how poetic language operates in the brain, with particular focus on contemporary lyric poetry and simulation theories of language processing. Similar to the Russian Formalist idea of ‘defamiliarisation’, my research suggests that the foregrounding of poeticised language encourages a broad recruitment of sensorimotor areas (those same areas used in processing bodily experiences) – a form of neural ‘motion’; this is in contrast with standard language processing which, as it becomes habituated and abstract, its processing becomes progressively more ‘streamlined’ and comparatively narrow. Understanding poetry is thus an assertively embodied and enactive process. Based on this, I suggest a need to expand notions of criticism and critique, which have all but become the de facto mode of response  both within and beyond the academy. ‘Critical thinking’ has become all but synonymous with ‘intelligent thinking’. Most crucially, the attentive stance of resistance and detachment runs counter to the enactive sensorimotor motion by which poems become meaning, cutting us off from being surprised by or moved by the poem. I thus make case for an alternate, additional mode of response I call ‘co-creative response’ – a form of poetic imitation or versioning wherein one seeks to respond in kindwith rather than to an instigating text – that is based on (and thereby encourages) a more receptive, enactive form of reading.

This project is generously supported by the George Buchanan Scholarship, a Saltire Scholarship, and the University of St Andrews, and is supervised by Profs John Burnside and Don Paterson. See Patrick’s university profile here.


Related Lectures

‘Beyond Critical: A Case for Responding with Poetry’ | Cognitive Futures in the Humanities Conference, University of Kent, Canterbury, July 2018.

‘In Kind: How a Co-Creative Response Encourages Enactive Reading of Poetry’ | Educational Role of Language Conference, Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, Vilnius, Lithuania, June 2018.

‘Immersive Poetics: Creative Response Writing as an Enactive Approach to Poetry’ | English: Shared Futures, Newcastle University, July 2017

‘The Body In Mind: Poetry and the Re-Embodiment of Abstract Thought’ | Contemporary Poetry: Thinking & Feeling, Plymouth University, May 2016



Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities Researcher in Residence | Hospitalfield House in Arbroath, Scotland | May 2018